Every family has secrets, but the Annesley clan probably has more than most. Why did matriarch Odile suddenly up and leave her eight kids and her beloved husband Cornelius and remain mostly incommunicado in the south of France for 40 years? Why did madcap Agnes, the ultimate party gal, suddenly enter a cloister and remain silent for the same period? Why has the body of Odile’s favorite child, Roland, supposedly drowned at 18, never surfaced? Why does second-cousin Dominic Carlisle keep popping up in the lives and sexual fantasies of Odile’s direct descendants Clemency, Isabelle, Madeleine, Cherie, and Elodie? Could these secrets have something to do with the brutal slashing deaths of aged Aunt Effie and Aunt Martha on the isle of Jersey and the beating to death of Pandora on a golf club in Spain? For that matter, could the Annesley family scourge be the notorious Provence Predator who’s been tormenting France for decades? To celebrate her 80th birthday, Odile writes the family to tell them the terms of her will. Clemency quickly arranges a surprise reunion, but when the relatives arrive at the creepy old house in the French vineyards, they find Odile’s body back by the barn. Isabelle is soon murdered, then Harry. Candles flicker, a storm is brewing, children scream, and a cross-wearing wraith appears just in time to prevent Clemency’s death and tie together some, but by no means all, of the loose ends.
Smith, overly fond of large casts and menacing buildings (The Neighbors, 1999, etc.), would do better to focus on compact plotting.